On Friday morning, the European Council addressed economic-policy issues, which had been on the agenda for the European Council meeting in March that had to be cancelled: the Single Market, industrial policy and digital affairs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the economy under a great deal of pressure, meaning that the EU must find common answers. “The better we coordinate our actions, in spite of all the differences there might be, the easier it is for people throughout Europe to get through this difficult phase,” said the Chancellor at the end of the two-day summit.

Make digital transformation self-determined

The leaders also looked at how to push ahead with digital change. The digital transformation of state, industry and society must be “self-determined”, stressed the Chancellor. “We want to be digitally sovereign”. That doesn’t mean that everything has to be produced in Europe, “but we need to decide which areas we think are so important that they are part of this sovereignty”. According to the conclusions, trustworthy, secure clouds are to be put in place so that European data can be saved and processed in Europe.

In addition, the European Council addressed the need to modernise the legal framework for competition. “Today, as many global economic actors as possible must be able to develop in the European Union,” said the Chancellor. Actors like this are also needed in the field of vital technologies for the future.

Agreement on Belarus sanctions

The evening before, the European Council had condemned the violence on the part of Belarus authorities directed against peaceful protestors and agreed on sanctions to be imposed against responsible actors in Belarus. This is an “important signal”, as the Chancellor said at her press conference. It strengthens those “fighting for freedom of expression, for the freedom to demonstrate and for a transparent Belarus”.

This was preceded on Thursday by “long and detailed discussions” about relations with Turkey. The Chancellor stressed that the legitimate concerns of Greece and Cyprus are shared by the EU member states. At the same time, the EU seeks “good structural relations with Turkey”. The EU wants to engage with Turkey on important issues, such as the EU-Turkey Agreement, the customs union and contacts between people.

The evening before, the Chancellor had already stressed that Turkey must continue its efforts to reduce tensions. Initial steps have been seen in recent weeks. “We did not expect this to be a simple discussion. The fact that we brought the matter to a conclusion was an achievement,” summed up the Chancellor.

Other issues addressed on the first day of the summit

Leaders also discussed the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. The EU is working for a swift ceasefire. A solution will only be achieved through negotiation and “certainly not by military force”. At the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel reported on the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia. The European Council unanimously condemned the attempted murder.

The EU’s relations with China were another issue on the first day of the summit meeting, which was dominated by external-policy matters. After this issue was discussed only briefly, the Chancellor announced an informal Council meeting in November in Berlin. The aim is to make progress in some areas, as was already achieved at the EU-China video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on 14 September, in particular with regard to cooperation on climate action and negotiations on the investment agreement. The EU would like to see the latter finalised by the end of the year if at all possible.